Efficient Public Transportation

As quickly as Charlotte has grown, so has the area’s public transportation provider, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). Based in Charlotte and managed by the Public Transit Department, CATS serves a six-county region with daily services while also advancing regional transit planning. CATS’ services reach nearly 800,000 people by operating over 140 bus, rail and vanpool routes as well as services for the disabled. Seventy-five percent of county residents live within three-quarters of a mile of a transit stop. Combined, these vehicles travel an average of 43,000 miles per day.

After developing a mobile application for all platforms and integrating with Google Transit, CATS has made finding information on services easier than ever. Accessibility and sharing the road are core components of CATS’s mission. One hundred percent of vehicles are handicap accessible and contain bicycle storage.

With $100 million in annual operating expenses, the system is funded by a local half-cent sales tax in addition to contributions from Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte, Huntersville and the state of North Carolina.

For more information on the Charlotte Area Transit system, schedules, fares and passes, visit www.ridetransit.org

Download a transportation overview here.


Traveling an average of 29,500 miles per day and boasting an 89 percent on-time performance, the bus system is as reliable as it is robust. Uptown Charlotte is connected to the surrounding area by 74 routes, which include eight regional express routes and 10 neighborhood circulators. The Charlotte Transportation Center, which neighbors Time Warner Cable Area, serves as the main hub for the LYNX Blue Line and all radial bus routes.

Three other community transit centers — SouthPark, Eastland, and Rosa Parks — serve as outposts for crosstown and neighborhood routes. Outfitted with expanded waiting areas, shelters, bicycle parking, and multiple bus bays, these centers are fixtures in their neighborhoods and in the transit system.

Light Rail

The Carolinas’ first modern light rail line opened in November, 2007. The 9.6 mile LYNX Blue Line was a major success from the start, immediately surpassing ridership goals. The line runs adjacent to South Boulevard, extending from city center to I-485 in the southern part of Mecklenburg County. The 15 stations vary from walk-up stations to park-and-ride stations with space for as many as 1,100 vehicles. Running every 10 minutes in peak periods, LYNX offers a consistent trip time of 23 minutes from the farthest station to the Charlotte Transportation Center. Ridership is so high that preparations are already being made to expand station platforms to allow each train to have three cars.

The Blue Line Extension is scheduled to be operational by 2017. Extending 9.4 miles to northeast Charlotte and terminating at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, this route will connect the southern and northern-most points of Mecklenburg County. With a short 22 minute ride, uptown will be more accessible from the university for students and residents alike. South End, Uptown, NoDa and UNCC will be connected like never before.

The Future

The 2030 plan continues to grow the robust system. Proposed are two streetcar lines connecting Charlotte Douglas International Airport to uptown and to the Eastland Community Transit Center. The Silver Line is 14 mile light rail proposed to connect uptown to Matthews, running parallel to Independence Boulevard.

Charlotte Gateway Station at Graham, 4th, and West Trade Streets is the keystone in integrating Charlotte’s current and forthcoming transit modes: commuter rail, Amtrak, Greyhound, the Center City Streetcar, and high-speed rail. The station will include space for buses, retail stores and 100,000 square feet of office space.

Special Routes

Airport — Sprinter
With the world’s seventh most active airport less than 10 miles from Charlotte’s city center, CATS offers an express service to and from the airport throughout the day. The route runs frequently between the Charlotte Transportation Center and the airport terminal, utilizing dedicated hybrid-electric buses modified to accommodate travelers who may be traveling with luggage. Compared to a taxi, the Sprinter is an attractive alternative with a low fare — the same as a local route — and travel time of less than 25 minutes.

Uptown — Gold Rush
Traveling around Uptown Charlotte is simple with CATS’s Gold Rush shuttles. Free to everyone, these two routes run in 12-minute intervals and connect the far-reaches of Charlotte’s city center. The Red Line covers Tryon Street to South End, and the Orange Line runs from Presbyterian Hospital down Elizabeth Avenue/Trade Street to Johnson C. Smith University.

CATS also offers three routes around the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Free to students, these routes offer quick and easy access to other areas of campus and the surrounding community. Transit passes for CATS connecting services are available at a discount to students, employees and faculty.

Commuting Alternatives
Vanpools are an alternative to traditional buses and trains. For those who live near one another and work in the same area, there are over 90 commuter-operated vanpools which seat from nine to 15 passengers. After a flat fare, CATS covers the fuel, maintenance and insurance costs for each van. CATS also supports ShareTheRideNC, a free carpool matching service.

For the disabled, CATS’ Special Transportation Service offers door-to-door transit services within Charlotte, Matthews and Pineville. The vehicles in this fleet are equipped with lifts to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters.